On May 27, the Austrian government presented an Islam Map as a novel contribution and a breakthrough tool to fight “political Islam.” However, this map has been around for years. The project was initiated back in 2012, by Ednan Aslan, the head of the Institute for Islamic Theological Studies at the University of Vienna and the Documentation Center for Political Islam which was set up by the government.
Nine years later, Susanne Raab, minister for integration from the ruling conservative party (ÖVP), launched a website with an interactive map listing the names and locations of more than 600 mosques and Muslim organizations in Austria as well as their alleged connections abroad.
The map is designed to serve as a monitoring tool for the Documentation Center for Political Islam which is a data-collecting center for integration policy and security agencies. However, the data it collects is problematic to the extent that it is outdated and incorrect; some of the names recorded on the website are no longer actively in service. The most problematic part, however, is that it publishes private addresses of organizations.
After barely a week since the website of the controversial map was launched, the government decided to take the map offline. Not only was it criticized by Austria’s Muslim community, various people from all walks of life reacted on the website. The Catholic Church, for example, joined the criticism and rejected the map. The head of the church stated that Islam is now “under general suspicion.” He wondered why Islam has a map and other faith communities do not.
Ümit Vural, the head of the IGGOE, warned against stigmatizing all Muslims living in Austria as a potential danger. His organization stated that several Muslims had already been attacked and a mosque was vandalized since the map became available online. Muslim Austrians Initiative chairman Tarafa Baghajati told broadcaster ORF, “Imagine if we had a Judaism map or a Christianity map in Austria.”